Calls for an end to the “senseless slaughter” of pigs in Egypt have increased after two graphic video clips were posted in YouTube showing scores of pigs being culled and brutally maimed.
The clips, posted by the independent newspaper Al-Masri Al-Yom, have sparked horrified reactions from animal rights activists as well as Christians worldwide, whose counterparts in Egypt rear pigs for their livelihood.
Since the H1N1 flu virus sparked panic across the world, the Egyptian government has been working to kill all of its pig – around 300,000 – to quell fears. Notably, however, while the H1N1 flu was initially labeled the “swine flu,” it is spread by humans, not pigs, according to the World Health Organizations. Furthermore, pork products have been deemed safe to eat.
Still, Egypt claims its actions are necessary to prevent widespread panic in the country, which has been battling an outbreak of the bird flu in the past three years.
But Arab intellectuals, both Christian and Muslim, have accused President Hosni Mubarak's government of having conspired with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist opposition that opposes rearing pigs "on Islamic land" as pigs are viewed by Islam as unclean animals.
With pig raising and consumption almost entirely confined to Christians, some see the slaughter as having religious overtones.
"The Copts (Egyptian Christians) are victims of the flu without ever having been contaminated," Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun told Agence France-Presse. He believes the government "clearly acted under pressure from Islamists" when it ordered the mass cull.
Though the owners of the pigs are reportedly being compensated around $180 per pig, many worry over their future as the slaughter effectively forces them into a state of unemployment.
An estimated quarter of a million people in Cairo, primarily poor Christians, make their living from garbage collecting and raising pigs in city slums.
According to reports, authorities in Egypt have said it will take six months to complete the slaughter and announced plans to import three machines to boost culling capacity to 3,000 animals a day.